Alumni Spotlight - Maryann Rodin
Behind every great artist, there is a great teacher. Art educators foster the creative development of children and inspire young students to pursue artistic careers. Some students even go on to become art educators themselves, inspiring the next generation of artists. One such art educator is Maryann Rodin. Maryann is an elementary art teacher in the West Geauga school district. She graduated from Kent State in 1995 with her B.A. in Art Education and earned her M.A. in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College in 2005.
Maryann has years of experience working as an art educator and has had to adapt her classroom to the constraints of the pandemic. She used her creativity to put on a virtual art show last year, and is working with the present challenges to help her students find joy in making art. We caught up with Maryann to find out more about her career as an art educator and how her job has evolved over the years.
Q: Tell us about some of your favorite memories and experiences from when you were a student at Kent State. Were there any projects from your art education degree that were especially meaningful to you?
A: I have so many favorite memories from Kent! I am not sure where to start. Spending so many nights in the art building with fellow students working on projects. Walking around campus with my drawing board, my tacklebox of art supplies and my portfolio. The Townhomes parties! And of course The Town Tavern, The Loft, and Ray’s!
There are so many lessons that I remember and loved. One in particular was a self-portrait that we had to do for an Art Ed class. I found an old TV at a thrift store and smashed out the inside. I made all kinds of mini things about myself and placed it into the TV. I loved my idea of making it unique and different. I loved all of my studio classes and I credit that to the amazing teachers and professors I had.
My art education class was the first to create a student chapter for the Ohio Art Education Association (OAEA). I will never forget my first conference I attended as well as making a float and being in the Kent Homecoming parade.
I credit so much of who I am as a teacher to my professors Dr. Doris Guay and Dr. Frank Susi. They taught me so much and I am so appreciative of them!
Q: What are some of your favorite lessons that you do with your students? How do you find that these projects help young students to develop artistic skills?
A: I have always loved sculpture. Watching students create after they have been given a bunch of “stuff” teaches them so much about problem-solving and higher-level thinking. I also love teaching students about non-traditional art and artists. Last year we created cardboard relief portraits in the style of Kimmy Cantrell and my students loved it!
There is nothing better than seeing the spark in the eyes of students who just had a great idea and are ready to create something!
Q: How has working as an art teacher changed due to the pandemic? What challenges have you and your students faced related to the pandemic, and how have you overcome them?
A: This year has been my most challenging year ever. First of all, I lost my art room. I am on a cart, something I have been thankful enough to have not had to do since the late 90’s. Shared supplies are not allowed either, unless there is a wait time between them of at least a few days. This creates a lot of time planning and prepping for each lesson compared to usual. The students can only work on their small desks, so the size of art has been very limited. The students usually sit at tables and can share ideas and supplies, but this year there is minimal socializing. They must stay at their desks. We usually hold mini art shows on the last day of each lesson so that they can share their work with others in the class. Lastly, I am limited on my technology. I love using technology in my lesson presentation, and because I travel into other teachers rooms, sometimes this is not possible. I do the best I can this year. I am hoping that the future is better!
Q: You put on a virtual art show last June. Can you tell us more about this project and how it came to fruition?
A: When our state lockdown happened, we were in the midst of Youth Art Month. I am the Northeast regional chair for our regional Youth Art Month show. We spent the day hanging the show at the Akron Art Museum, as the reception for area students was going to be that Sunday. The museum shut down just days later. Besides being in charge of this major show, I had been saving artworks all year for multiple shows our district has during the last quarter of school. I had all of these artworks and still wanted to share them with the students and parents of my community. The kids were so excited and I didn’t want to let them down. This was when Bitmoji classrooms became all the rage. I think teachers had time to really explore what they could do with a virtual classroom. I decided to create a fun art show and virtually hang all of the artworks on virtual gallery walls. It took a LOT of time, since it was all new to me. With the help of my district communications director, we put it to music and made it a YouTube video. I loved how it turned out and so did the students.
Q: How has your teaching philosophy evolved over the 25 years you have been an art educator?
A: As a 1995 graduate of Kent State, we were taught the DBAE (Discipline Based Art Education) philosophy of Art Education. This philosophy incorporates art history, criticism, production, and aesthetics. I still use this philosophy today, because I feel it does incorporate so many important things, but I also make sure that there are connections. I want the students to be able to make connections to the world around them, as well as themselves. This makes their art more meaningful.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The students! I love teaching and I could never imagine any other career choice. I love each and every student I have ever had. I love going to work every day and seeing my students. When we went into quarantine last spring, I missed my students so much. It was so hard to not see them. I am lucky to be in a district that went back five days a week since September.
Q: Do you have any advice for students who have aspirations of becoming teachers?
A: I actually have a son who is a freshman at Kent this year majoring in Music Education. I give him my “speech” about teaching all of the time.
If teaching is your passion, do not let anyone try to change your mind! It is not the highest paying job, and often teachers are not appreciated as much as they should be. This profession has a lot more work and pressure than there used to be many years ago, but if this is what you love to do, stick with it. It is one of the most rewarding jobs you can ever have.